We watch in awe the people of Japan these past weeks. It appears that the faith or philosophy practiced in Japan is less ego-centric, and more other-centered than we are used to. WE are not the center of the world. We are only a part of a great whole. Perhaps this is why we see no looting, and while waiting for their allotment of water, food or other distributions from human service agencies – the Japanese actually stay within serpentine-like chalk-drawn lines on the pavement. Nothing is forcing them to be civil. They just are – even amidst the heartache they are feeling.
How can we be more civil when times are tough? How does a widow go about doing her daily routine, helping others, and practicing her faith when she has just had her life ripped apart? How do we not roll up into a fetal position and just rock back and forth when times are tough? Suffering through a job-loss, loss of a child to suicide or drug addiction, diagnosis of cancer or other life-limiting disease: these all push us to our limits emotionally. We wonder where strength will come from, and how we can keep going.
Strength comes from putting one foot in front of another. Just as an athlete needs to condition every day, we need to move, to breathe, to reach out – for strength.
In order to move, we move, step by sluggish step. In the days following my husband’s death, I literally noticed my legs not wanting to work right. I had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other – almost dragging myself from one room to another in my own house. Getting out in the world took a different kind of strength. I didn’t want to be reminded of my loss, but I really appreciated when friends just offered a hug.
On the other hand, it was almost welcoming to go places where I was completely anonymous. I could be kind to strangers who didn’t know my circumstance, and to whom I could give a smile with or without one returned, but not expect a particular response. It was and IS a time of understanding that everyone has a cross to bear: we don’t know what heartache the person in the next car is experiencing. We just need to remember to treat them as if they are going through the worst day WE’ve ever had.
Isn’t this what Jesus taught? To do unto others as you would have done unto you? Why is this teaching so easily forgotten, so quickly pushed aside when we go through difficult moments, days or weeks in our own lives?
Keep the prayers going for those in Japan. Give to organizations that can give the physical help you can’t. And keep the images in mind of the civility practiced there the next time you feel yourself suffering. Our suffering doesn’t have to be transferred to everyone around us. Just take one step, then another – to healing.
Next week, I’ll talk about that breathing thing…but don’t hold your breath until then.
Mary Boscaino is a free-lance writer, specializing in prayerful spirituality. She has written for Prayables.com and Everyday Christian.